Brave New Worlds
When I visited the Kennedy Space Center, I couldn’t wait to see Launchpad 39A. From that exact spot in Florida, humans first broke free from the Earth’s gravitational pull to visit our neighbor, the Moon. Besides the Apollo program, 39A was used as the launchpad for dozens of space shuttle missions. I believed that standing in such a historic location would make me feel closer to space without ever needing to leave Earth.
When I was younger, I looked to the stars for humanity’s future. But recently, a chant I heard at a climate rally reminded me to keep my attention close to the ground: “There Is No Planet B.”
There are some people who disagree with this slogan; they believe that “Planet B” really exists, orbiting the Sun just a bit further than Earth. One such believer is Elon Musk. If you visit Musk’s twitter account — which I don’t recommend, it’s pretty cringy — you’ll see that his cover photo is an illustration of the planet Mars in four stages of development. The first shows the red Mars that we know today; the second depicts a greening Mars with a small liquid ocean; the third expands the foliage and waterways and even introduces a Martian atmosphere; the fourth is almost indistinguishable from Earth.